Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


January 17, 2013

Dalton column: Death of a boy, and a presidency


The fact that they married while he was a congressman should indicate that Jane understood he was a political, public man and that she was agreeable to that, but, if that was the case, her opinion changed, perhaps due to the sadness that awaited the two of them. In February 1836, their first child, Franklin Jr., died shortly after his birth. Later that year, Pierce was elected by the N.H. General Court to be a United States senator, and he went to Washington to assume office in March 1837, unaccompanied by his wife who stayed in N.H. In 1839, Jane gave birth to Frank Robert Pierce, and two years later, to Benjamin, who was named after his grandfather. In 1842, perhaps wanting to see his growing family more frequently, Pierce resigned from the Senate. However, death visited the following year, taking young Frank Robert during a typhoid epidemic.

Knowing how much his wife and surviving child needed him, Pierce turned down the Democrat nomination for governor and declined President Polk’s offer to be Attorney General of the United States. However, in 1847 the call of duty was too strong, and he accepted a political appointment to serve as a colonel in the Mexican War. Promoted to Brigadier General, he was badly injured when a horse fell on him. Ulysses S. Grant, who served in the war with Pierce, wrote that Pierce was “a gentleman and a man of courage.”

The Pierces’ connection with Andover was Jane’s older sister, Mary, who was married to John Aiken, a wealthy Lowell businessman. Sometime before 1850, the Aikens moved to 48 Central St. in Andover, and the Pierces were frequent visitors, perhaps providing an incentive to send Bennie to Phillips Academy. The trip from Concord, N.H., where the Pierces lived, to Andover, was a quick train ride on the Boston and Maine Railway, and John and Mary Aiken were good hosts. Pierce and Aiken, both distinguished, handsome men, attracted much attention during their walks around town, according to Claude Fuess (”Andover, Symbol of New England,” 1959).

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